The Butler County Stream Team, a volunteer organization that monitors Butler County’s water quality, opened its lab doors to the public during its open house Saturday, April 9 in Boyd Hall.
The Stream Team, a joint project between the Butler County Storm Water District, the Butler Soil and Water Conservation District and the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Miami University, was created to educate residents about water quality issues like storm runoff and to provide data that meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.
Between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, residents were permitted to browse the lab, ask questions, view power point slides and test water samples with the stream team volunteers, according to lab manager Chad Toussant.
“We really want people to come in as we are testing and sampling,” Toussant said. “It is a day to come in and really interact with the volunteers.”
The Stream Team is a core group of 20 volunteers who come to the lab the second Saturday of every month to test water samples brought in by residents from creeks and streams throughout Butler County, according to Toussant.
The team uses probes and meters to test samples for nitrates, total phosphorous, bacteria, conductivity, total dissolved solids (TSS), pH and turbidity, according to Dr. Donna McCollum, coordinator of the Butler County Stream Team.
Jon Wallace, a Miami first-year who volunteers with the Stream Team, said if a water sample contained a high amount of phosphates, this would mean that sewage, animal manure or some other form of pollution or run off was getting into the water.
As a result, an algae bloom would develop, which would decrease the amount of oxygen in the water. Without oxygen, all other life would die off and the water would become uninhabitable, Wallace said.
McCollum said high levels of these five parameters are found in streams all over the country.
“It’s not that Butler County is so unusual, it’s just that most of the streams in the United States are in bad shape,” McCollum said.
According to a Wadeable Streams Assessment done by the United States EPA in 2004, 42 percent of the nation’s streams are in poor condition. Of the 276,362 miles of stream tested in Ohio and other eastern states, 51.8 percent, or 143,155 miles of stream are in poor condition.
Although the Stream Team cannot reach out to residents across the entire nation to improve water conditions, it is reaching out to residents of Butler County.
Through booklets, outreach programs and its annual open house, the Stream Team is educating citizens about non point source pollution such as fertilizers and salts, and how to keep these pollutants from running into the county’s streams, according to Dr. McCollum.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as pulling your car into your yard so the soap can run into the dirt rather than the storm drain,” McCollum said.
To improve its outreach program, the Stream Team is putting together a new website which will post all the water sample results for the public to see.
To learn more about the Butler County Stream Team or to find out how to become a volunteer, visit butlercountystreamteam.org.